The Patchwork Cap

by Roderick T. Long

(as “RLNG”)

[With the original illustrations. I believe I wrote this around age 14, thus in 1978 or thereabouts.]

It was certainly not there before tea-time – of that Reginald was sure. The top of the Bureau was completely clear before Reginald had left the room to check the muffins – he had dusted it himself. Then, smelling the muffins, he had placed the dustcloth on one of seven hooks – the third from the right (or was it the left? With all the Disturbing Events that had taken place he was not entirely sure) in his neat and orderly broom closet.

When Reginald went out to the kitchen, he discovered that the potholder was not in its proper place at all, but on the floor. This was the first Disturbing Event. Reginald would never have been careless enough to allow this, but there it was on the floor, all the same. Now he was faced with the perplexing problem of how it had gotten there. Pulling up his stiff-backed wooden chair (hand-carved by his Great-Grandfather Harrison), he sat down to ponder the puzzling circumstance.

Suddenly, he jumped up with alacrity. The muffins were burning, and the smell had jolted Reginald out of his reverie. He dashed to the oven, realized the potholder was still on the floor, and picked it up. Using it, he then proceeded to extract from the oven a tin of what had once been blueberry muffins. This was Disturbing Event number two.

There was no time to make a second batch of muffins – Reginald’s busy schedule did not permit that. So he rushed to his room to get his hat and coat, for he had an appointment at the Stocks and Shares building – and he had to go without his tea, too, which always made him cross.

And now he was faced with Disturbing Event number three – the unnerving manifestation on his bureau (where it certainly had no business to be) that intruded its illogical existence into Reginald’s orderly life.

The thing was a cap – a patchwork cap of green and yellow, red and blue – a colourful cap, though hardly suitable for a stately gentleman of Reginald’s manner and dignity.

By all reason, it should not be there. Reginald possessed no such cap. How did it get on his bureau? This mystery was even greater than that of the potholder.

But Reginald had no time for it. He was already several minutes late – a rare, uncommon occurrence in his life. So he stuffed the bothersome thing in his briefcase, and hurried out the door.

The street was filled with busy sounds, muted by the fog. The snow was falling softly, silently, coating the sidewalks with lightly crunching white.

Mounting his bicycle, Reginald realized that he had left his hat in the house, and there was certainly no time to go back for it. His head being cold, he irritably reached into his briefcase and slapped the patch scrap cap on his head. Then, he rode off to the S & S.

He certainly made an odd sight – a rather old, severe-looking British gentleman in black and gray, pedaling furiously, holding a brown and black briefcase, staring straight ahead, trying to look gravely serous, while all the time he made the most perfectly comic spectacle, with the patchwork scrap cap on his head.

On arrival at the Stocks and Shares building, he hastily removed the cap, as he had no desire for his respectable business associates to see him attired in so ridiculous a manner.

No such luck, however.

“Good God, Reginald! What is that shockingly gaudy piece of filthy headgear doing in your possession?” erupted Ferdynand, Enterer of Records.

This outburst set Reginald on the defensive. In spite of all his virtues, he had a quick temper. “Are you trying to counsel me on my appearance?” he snapped. “If so, may I remind you that I am my own person, and may wear what I please! Good day, Gentlemen!”

Reginald had lost his temper before, but never to such an extent. Nor had he ever felt so good as he jauntily sauntered out the door, and down the sidewalk to his bicycle. For a moment, he wondered if the scrap cap, which he still wore on his head, had anything to do with it. Then, he dismissed the thought as childish.

Reginald glanced at his watch. “H’m! Half an hour with nought to do! That’s a switch, I’m sure!” he laughed.

“Make that a half-hour and another!” he corrected himself, thumbing through his appointment book. “I’ve got thirty minutes down for straightening my faultlessly perfect desk – a damned foolish thing to do!”

Reginald studied the patchwork cap for a minute, a bemused look on his face. Then, giggling, he slapped it back on his head, set it at a rakish angle, and, whistling off key, made his way off to the Green Clover Café.

After all, he had missed his tea!


[2009 note: Three decades later I wrote a brief sequel titled “On Top.”]

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